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Archive for April, 2007

Attention Researchers: San Francisco Is the Place to Be in Early June!

Monday, April 30th, 2007

What do all these things have in common?

The year 1957.

50 years have passed since the MRA was incorporated and Alan Russell was the first MRA president. The MRA is now 50 years old and has almost 3000 members……WOW!

Come June 6-8, San Francisco is the place to be…

  • Shelley Zalis, Michelle Adams, Bob Lederer, Beth Teehan and David Ashley are part of the fantastic presentation schedule.
  • The 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner/Dance is Wednesday night and promises to be a night to remember.
  • There are plenty of opportunities to network, make new friends and establish new industry contacts.
  • All of this and PRC credit for attending sessions.

Over 700 people have signed up causing the MRA to increase the room block no less than 4 times! In addition, Friday morning, the new MRA board–your board–will be installed!

Are you planning on attending? I look forward to your comments and seeing if you share in my excitement.

I hope to see you there.

Interview with Jim Rys

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I have met some very interesting people. Jim Rys falls into that category for sure. In two years he will be a 40 year veteran of this great industry. His background includes working on the client side in a number of different industries including insurance, retail/catalog, and financial services.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Jim Rys a little bit.

How did you first get involved in the research industry?

I fell into it. Soon after my return from Vietnam and discharge from the Army, I went job hunting. A recruiter thought my talents and experiences suited me for a career in market research. Within a couple of weeks, I landed a couple of job offers. I took the one from Sears because it seemed most promising. It was in catalog circulation planning and research. I ran with it and never looked back and second guessed my decision.

What do you believe is the number one issue in the research industry today?

I think that it’s finding technically skilled researchers and grooming them to be consultative. Today, market researchers need the technical and consultative skills and business knowledge that will earn them the trust of both the decision-makers and implementers (shakers and movers) within their companies.

What does a successful research project mean to you?

A successful research project is one that produces actions that benefit our business.

How much interaction does your research group have with the C-level at Assurant Health?

We’ve earned a seat at the table by consistently providing high quality research that addresses issues of paramount importance our business. Our clients trust us and the insights they and we derived from our work. They feel that it’s in the best interest of both of us to be collaborative.

What are the most effective ways to communicate with C-level executives?

Communication with C-level executives is most effective when it matches their styles and preferences, is interactive, and suggests and results in decisions that favorably influence the business.

When you are hiring research professionals what are some of the things you look for in potential candidates?

I look first and foremost for professionals who fit culturally. Secondarily, I test their research and consultative skills and their aptitude for learning. Finally, and especially at more senior levels, I want them to have health insurance industry knowledge based on experience.

What advice would you give someone entering the research industry?

Work both sides of the business but be sure that your work on either side includes involvement and face-to-face contact with clients. Avoid situations that don’t improve your skills or knowledge.

What are your thoughts about global outsourcing?

It’s usually beneficial economically, but third parties need to be forced to meet or surpass our performance standards and accept our monitoring and measuring to be certain they do.

What would your friends in the industry be surprised to know about you?

My friends would be surprised to know that I have “neat feet,” literally and figuratively. I know how to dance and have made great use of that talent in my life.

About Jim

Jim Rys is Director, Market Research for Assurant Health. He started his market research career in February, 1969. Since that time he has sold and serviced more than 150 market research engagements across many industries including utility, telephone, newspaper, shipping, clothing, toy, and agriculture.

Jim is involved with the American Marketing Association, the Advertising Research Foundation, the Marketing Science Institute, and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jim enjoys golf, tennis, soccer, cycling and skiing; is an outdoor enthusiast; and an avid reader.

Attention Baseball and Movie Fans: What Is Your Favorite of all Time?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Clearly this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. A nice cold 20 ounce coke, some popcorn, a comfortable chair and a movie… Even better…a movie about baseball! I tried to pick 10 baseball movies that people might consider were the best ever.

I was pretty picky on compiling the list and didn’t include Fever Pitch or Summer Catch which were two movies based in the Boston area.

Here are the choices:

Pride of the Yankees (1942) Starring Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright

The Bad News Bears (1976) Starring Walter Matthau

The Natural (1984) Starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and Robert Duvall

Bull Durham (1988) Starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon

Eight Men Out (1988) — Starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, and D.B. Sweeney

Major League (1989) Starring Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, and Rene Russo

Field of Dreams (1989) Starring James Earl Jones, Kevin Costner, and Ray Liotta

A League of Their Own (1992) Starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna

The Sandlot (1993) Starring James Earl Jones

For Love of The Game (1999) — Starring Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston

For me I couldn’t just pick one. I love Bull Durham. I have seen it over 15 times and still enjoy it. It has great stars, lots of good comedy, and baseball. I also enjoyed The Natural with Robert Redford. I love the cinematography, characters and story. And for a good laugh there is no better than Major League! Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes are very funny and solid and the supporting characters are great!

  • What do you think and why?
  • What movies are missing?

I look forward to your comments.

Quiz Time. What Would You Do?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Yes we all want to motivate people. Yes we all want people to be successful and create a win/win situation for staff, clients and the company. In the past, I have been an advocate of sales contests. I truly believe that when done the right way, they can motivate behavior.

I was reading a magazine and came across this scenario:

Jensen Supplies holds two sales contest each year to boost revenue and improve morale. To spice things up a bit this time, Jane Werner, Jensen’s sales director, announced the July-through-December contest at the June 1 weekly sales meeting. She went all out and decorated the conference room in an island theme, complete with posters of the South Pacific and tropical music and treats. And on each person’s chair, she left a fake plane ticket to Tahiti—one for each of her 15 salespeople. She told them that in order to exchange the fake ticket for a real one, they would have to reach 125 percent of quota. The reason for such a large prize for a six-month contest, she explained, was that Jensen was introducing three new products and she wanted to ramp up sales as quickly as possible.

Also at the meeting was Dan Woods, Jensen’s marketing rep, who is responsible for creating the sales team’s collateral, presentation materials, and proposals. Strangely, over the course of the next month after the meeting, his performance declined, and he was less social and less available to help the salespeople than he had been. His lunch hours were longer and his workdays got shorter. Werner noticed the change and asked Woods into her office to discuss the situation.

In a nutshell, he was disappointed that, once again, he was excluded from the company’s incentive program because he wasn’t strictly “sales.” Woods said he felt integral to the sales force’s success. In his two years with the company, sales had grown 12 percent per year, whereas revenue had grown only 4 percent per year in the five years before his arrival. He said that perhaps he didn’t fit into the Jensen culture.

Werner was surprised. She hadn’t anticipated that Woods would feel this way. She asked him to give her a few days to work out the problem.

  • Has this happened to you?
  • What would you do?

I look forward to your comments and suggestions for Jane Werner.

Pets on a Plane. Why Not? Is it Expensive?

Friday, April 20th, 2007

We have had our little Yorkshire Terrier for over a year and he has done a lot of things but doesn’t have a frequent flyer card because he hasn’t flown on a plane…yet. We have discussed taking him to the city he was named after, but it just hasn’t been the right time. Traveling with three little ones is challenging enough. Why make my life more difficult?

A half-million pets fly each year, according the Transportation Department. So I am sure our little Boston will fly one of these days.

Some airlines charge to take pets along in the cabin; some don’t. Some restrict the travel of short-nosed animals, such as Persian cats and pugs, which have shorter nasal passages that make breathing difficult at higher altitudes. Most also don’t allow pets to travel as cargo in temperatures below 20 degrees and above 85 degrees.

Here’s what you need to know about flying with your pet:

Federal officials began making the pet-related travel statistics public last year for the first time as part of regulations under the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act, which Congress passed in 2000 under pressure from animal rights activists. Most air trips with pets are without incident. There were 14 reported pet deaths, four injuries and six lost animals between May and September in 2006.

Most airlines require pets to be considered healthy, under 100 pounds and at least 8 weeks old.

Fees vary. JetBlue charges $50 for a pet to fly in the cabin, Continental $95, American and Northwest, $80. It’s free on USAir Shuttle and Delta Shuttle.

American, Delta and JetBlue allow pets in the cabin. Frontier and Champion allow them only as cargo. Southwest won’t let pets fly at all.

Some airlines allow only one animal in the cabin per flight. American allows up to seven.


  • Alert the airline of a pet when booking your flight to make sure there’s room in the cabin.
  • Fly during a weekday when airports are less hectic.
  • Fly in the morning or evening during the summer and midday during the winter to ensure safe temperatures for pets traveling as cargo.
  • Choose a nonstop, direct flight.
  • Exercise your pet before leaving to help it relax and sleep.
  • Do not feed or give water to your pet two hours before departure.
  • Check in at least two hours before time and have all paperwork ready.
  • Tape a note on the pet container with all relevant information: name of the pet, age, destination and flight number.
  • Make sure the carry-on container will fit under the seat.
  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier before leaving home, and make sure the pet is wearing tags or is micro chipped.

Have you traveled with your pet? How was the experience?

I look forward to hearing your stories and adding to the list of helpful tips.

This Chair Is Saved…No More?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I can recall going on a cruise a few years ago with my family and frankly not looking forward to it for a few reasons. The main one was that you had a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a deck chair. I saw firsthand that people actually woke up at 5:00am to get the best spots on the boat. Next to the pool, bar, or wherever else they deemed as “the spot”.

A number of you have probably heard me tell the story that I actually got into a heated discussion with a woman from New York regarding saving chairs. It got so ridiculous that I watched someone toss someone else’s stuff in the garbage to make a point.

Well help is on the way. Hotels have noticed this as well and no doubt have been paying attention to customer surveys and now will be changing the rules.

In a recent article about resorts cracking down on chair hogs at pools, the Wall Street Journal had this to say:

Resort hotels are cracking down on chair hogs — those vacationers who claim prime spots early in the morning and then don’t show up again until after noon. Many hotels now enforce time limits on unoccupied chairs by removing and storing personal items.

The battle over chairs — mostly at the pool — has become so extreme that hotels say they have no other choice.

“We have 1,800 pool chairs at the hotel, but everyone wants the same 200,” says Matthew Hart, general manager of the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui. “It got to be refereeing adults.”

Who’s doing what:

  1. Guests at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands who leave their tiki huts for more than an hour during holidays will lose them.
  2. If you disappear for more than an hour at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Ariz., the chair is given to someone else, and you go to the back of the queue.
  3. And a new sign at the Peninsula in Bangkok, Thailand, instructs guests that items will be removed if left unattended for 15 minutes.
  4. The Westin Maui has started sending attendants to tag chairs left unoccupied. Once tagged, the attendant waits half an hour, and if the guests have not returned, the belongings are bagged and kept at the towel desk for pickup.

Does this story sound familiar? Has this happened to you?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Attention NASCAR Fans – What Am I Missing?

Monday, April 16th, 2007

As most of you know I am a sports fan – ok a big sports fan. Even if you didn’t know that, you could tell by looking at my license plate or walking into my office.

Being a sports fan I have had the privilege of going to lots of events. Yes I have been to the World Series, NBA finals, Stanley Cup finals, World Cup and all-star games in baseball, basketball and hockey.

I have been to non-traditional sporting events like the OP Surfing championship in California. In addition, I have been to a number of pro volleyball tournaments as well as major golf and tennis tournaments.

I have been to literally hundreds if not over a thousand events. But…I have NEVER been to a NASCAR race. Living in Boston, I had only a handful of chances to go, but now I live in Texas less than 15 miles away from Texas Motor Speedway and still have never gone. I am not sure why. I know this: I want to go. Here are a few stats:

  • Currently over 75 million people or one in three US adults are NASCAR fans
  • NASCAR is the number-two sport on television in the US and is broadcast in over 100 countries in 21 languages.
  • The sport has over $2 billion in licensed product sales annually, making NASCAR a consistent performer among all major sports. I didn’t know 60% of the fans are male and 36% of the fans have families with kids under 18 – so I qualify for both of those groups.

I hope to go to a race this year.

  • What am I missing?
  • Please describe the races and the experience.

I look forward to reading your comments.

I Wonder What That House Is Worth?

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Let me know if this sounds familiar.

This is a great neighborhood – I wonder if we can afford it?

Maybe we should move to Nebraska. I think the housing prices are much more affordable.

I remember growing up in Massachusetts. I wonder what the neighborhood looks like now and what the houses are worth?

That is a beautiful house – I wonder who lives there and how much it’s worth?

Hey Honey, can you believe that Bill and Sally are moving? Maybe we should consider it. How much do you think our house is worth?

I think most people want to know the value of their house, and if pressed would probably admit they would want to know the value of other people’s homes as well. I know a fair number of people who are curious. Maybe they are being smart and just want to have information that can help them decide when it’s the right time to move.

This website can answer any questions you have about the value of your house and a neighborhood.


I wish I had known about this when I was looking for a house in the Dallas area. It is a very good tool for evaluating neighborhoods, a specific house and it does a nice job with an aerial view. Basically what happens is you enter an address of a home and within a few seconds you will have a view of that house and the neighborhood – with all the pricing information. In addition, you can scroll in any direction and new homes and prices come up as you move your mouse.

This is a great tool that has information updated every month and will tell you if your home has gone up or down in the past 30 days.

I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts after you have used the site.

Top 10 Luxury Family Resorts

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Recently I booked a trip for a family vacation. This can be a little bit of a challenge with three little ones under the age of six. We need to have a flight that is manageable (under five hours) for sure – preferably a water vacation with lots of beach and sand to play in and a casual atmosphere where we can walk through the lobby with a wet dripping bathing suit. A few restaurants and an ice cream shop is a huge bonus.

We chose the JW Marriott in Cancun. Even though we haven’t been to this hotel it got rave reviews and frankly the short flight to Mexico and almost guaranteed weather is a huge plus.

Here are the Forbes Top 10 Luxury Family Resorts that might be perfect for your family:

  1. “Las Vegas meets SeaWorld” — Atlantis, Bahamas
  2. All Inclusive — Club Med Ixtapa, Mexico
  3. Luxury and Comfort — Deer Valley Resort , Utah
  4. “Heaven on Earth” — Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

  5. Five Pools & Two Water Slides — Fairmont, Scottsdale, Arizona
  6. Most Kid-friendly? — Four Seasons Resort, Nevis

  7. Kids Entertained All Day — Kona Village Resort, Big Island, Hawaii
  8. “Best of Both Worlds” — La Jolla de Mismaloya, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  9. Perfect for Sporty Families — Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head, S.C.
  10. Who Has More Fun? — Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island , Florida

Have you been to any of these? Where do you go? Help me out. I will be looking for another location very soon.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Tips for a SOHO

Monday, April 9th, 2007

In their article SOHO: The Future of Small Business, Score.org has this to say about the small office/home office:

SOHO, the small office/home office market of companies with 20 employees or less, is changing the landscape of small business. A mere blip on the economic and social horizons a decade ago, SOHO has now become a super-nova flash of power and influence—and the fastest-growing part of the U.S. economy. There are currently over 40 million SOHO enterprises in the U.S., and more than a million individuals are expected to join the ranks this year.

So many more people are working out of their house. Why? Easy! Flexibility for both the employee and the employer. I had a SOHO (small office home office) for over 8 years. I will admit working out of the house isn’t for everyone. I have a number of friends like Gary, Mike and Sharon that it might work for but I would bet against it for a number of reasons.

You need to be very disciplined, self motivated and very organized. Since more and more people are working out of the house (one report I read was one million individuals are expected to join the ranks this year) I thought it would be a good idea to build a list of 20 helpful hints that can be of use to readers and contributors of the blog.

I will start us off with number 1:

1. Get off to a quick start
a. Plan out your day
b. Have an idea of what you want to accomplish
c. Who do you owe a client report to?
d. Review your calendar
e. If you are in sales who are your first 20 calls?
f. Who should I touch base with at the main office?
g. Do I have any internal reports that I owe my boss?
h. Am I up to date on my expenses?
i. Did I book all my reservations for my next business trip?

For me I always feel great and that I have accomplished a lot if I get off to a quick start. They say that the first 30 seconds are very important during a presentation. Well for me the first 30 minutes sets the tone for my day.

Ok now it’s your turn with numbers 2-20.

I look forward to reading your comments.